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New: War Emergency Workers National Committee

This letter to the Secretary of the War Emergency Workers National Committee, JS Middleton, appears with the kind permission of the People's History Museum in Manchester whose copyright is gratefully acknowledged.



Letter date       [7 September 1915]

Address From   [Llandrindodd Wells]

Address To       [28 Victoria Street, London SW]

Who to             [JS Middleton, War Emergency Workers National Committee]



Editor               [ ]



Archive name         [People’s History Museum, Manchester]

Archive Ref 1         [WNC 32 /6/60]


[LEGEND: Olive Schreiner sent this brief letter to the Secretary of the War Emergency Workers National Committee, JS Middleton, giving her assent to a manifesto calling on women to join trade unions in whatever war work they did and to organise for equal pay in doing so. Its transcription appears here with the kind agreement of the People’s History Museum, Manchester.]


c/o Dr Parker

Llandrindodd Wells
^Sep 7th^ 1915


Dear Sir

I shall be glad to assist in any matter bearing on equal wages for women for equal work. It has my deepest sympathy.

Yours faithfully
Olive Schreiner  


[NOTATION: The War Emergency Workers National Committee was formed by a range of British labour organisations during the Great War. It became concerned with pay and equality issues in circumstances of war emergency, and in particular that women occupying jobs formerly done by men might be paid less and that these lower rates would prevail post-war when men returned from war service. In July 1915 its committee decided that an Appeal to women workers doing war-work should be made, to encourage them to protect pay levels. However, it was clear to many of the proposed signatories that the intention was more about protecting jobs for men than supporting equality for women doing crucial war-work and there were detailed objections to the initial version and then a number of following iterations of the WNC’s Appeal from important members of the feminist and women’s rights community. Succinctly, signatures were withheld until some sections were re-worded so that the Appeal did not imply that women ought to join trade unions even if these did not support equal pay for equal work. The revised Appeal also included that, post-war, while such jobs should revert to men, the wartime post-holders should be given alternative employment. Eventually the signatories included, among a longer list of women’s rights luminaries, Florence Bell, Margaret Llewellyn Davies, Charlotte Despard, Isabella Ford, Katherine Bruce Glazier, Mary Macarthur, Catherine Marshall, Vernon Lee, Marion Phillips, Olive Schreiner, Maud Selbourne, Marjorie Sheepshanks, Ethel Snowden, Helena Swanwick, and Beatrice Webb. Olive Schreiner’s name with others was printed on the final version of the Appeal, which was distributed widely as part of seeking wider support.]